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Lecture 7

ENGL 111W Lecture 7: ENG 111W Hesoid, Webb-Marvell Poems

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Stephen Collis

HESIOD’S WORKS AND DAYS - A Greek poem written around 700 BCE. - it is a sort of farmer’s almanac—a poem of agricultural instruction and advice for leading the good life. Rural life is not really idealized here, in this forerunner of pastoral poetry; it is simply assumed to be the norm. - He imagines a Golden Age as a time when “men lived like gods,” “untroubled by work and woe.” “All they did was take pleasure in festivities.” - In the iron age: “Zeus will destroy the age of humans.” And what does this destruction look like? “Justice for them is nothing but the fist, / and so one man destroys another man’s city”—a world where it is “Better to be doers of evil deeds and lawless violence,” “But if justice lies in the fist, then shameless / is what they shall always be. - Pastoral poems written between 42 and 37 BCE, during a very turbulent time in Roman history—a time of civil war, the end of the Roman Republic, and the birth of the Roman Empire. - “A new begetting now descends from Heaven’s height”—“look with blessing on the boy / Whose birth will end the iron race at last and raise / A golden through the world.” And what does this new golden age consist of? Plenty and leisure. Golden Age - Utopian thought tends to be secular, but it has roots in spiritual visions of Eden and Paradise—of better worlds in the past, or possibly still in the future. - The “good place” is not of this world, but of a world to come, after death PLATO’S REPUBLIC (380 BCE) - An attempt to theorize an ideal (he says “just”) “republic.” Plato focuses mostly on education: how to train the best leaders or “guardians” of the people. They should be trained equally in mind and body, women and men the same; wives and children would be shared, and no private property held amongst the “guardians.” - What Plato bequeaths to the intellectual tradition is the notion that human society can and should be organized rationally, governed by ideas of perfectio
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